Since it first came into being around a thousand years ago, Borough Market has had more than its share of memorable years, both good and bad. When any history of the Market is written, 2017 will feature prominently among those landmark dates, mainly for tragic reasons but from that also its enduring sense of community.
On the evening of Saturday 3rd June, a terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market left eight people dead, dozens injured and hundreds of onlookers deeply traumatised. What started out as a typically vibrant night of good food and humour in the Market’s bars and restaurants ended in horror. The Market was then closed for 11 days while police carried out their investigation—a period of considerable stress for everyone here, as the uncertainty and dislocation added to the raw shock of the weekend’s events.
However, even at this time of great trauma, there were sources of solace. The response of the Market’s staff, traders, local community, regular shoppers and occasional visitors illustrated clearer than ever that this isn’t just a place of commerce; it is a real community, bound by genuine friendships and a clear sense of belonging. A huge number of people played their part: the emergency services who responded so magnificently; all those who helped get the place up and functioning at lightning speed; the hundreds who showed up for our simple reopening ceremony; the thousands who came down in the days that followed to offer a word or a handshake and do some quietly defiant shopping. The wider response to the attack—the letters, emails, social media messages, blog posts and floral tributes that flooded in—was also extremely uplifting, showing that the work we do here at Borough Market genuinely matters to people.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in the extraordinary response to our appeal for donations to a trader support fund, which was set up to help the small, independent traders whose livelihood was threatened by rotting stock and lost trading days in the aftermath of the attack. The appeal surpassed all expectations, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of supporters, from the Mayor of London, big local companies that pledged thousands of pounds, to the student who sent a fiver.
So, what do we hope for in the future? Firstly, and most importantly, that all those affected by the attack find the health and happiness they deserve. Secondly, that shoppers continue to support this remarkable community of producers and merchants, who together offer an alternative to the dominant models of industrialised food production and retail. And thirdly, that our country, which is currently in a state of considerable flux, finds a pathway through the next few years that allows us to continue to develop, innovate and build on the spirit of this unique and historic institution.
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As champions of sustainable food production, we believe that whatever protections and regulations replace those of the EU are properly considered, and implemented in such a way that consumers, small-scale producers, specialist importers and the country’s environment benefit and prosper.
Worrying trends and movements across the world can seek to create division between us but in the words of the late British parliamentarian Jo Cox, “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” We believe that markets are essential parts of our towns and cities across the world and are common to our communities. Borough Market is a place that welcomes people and produce from all over Europe and the rest of the world; its international traders bring with them skills, knowledge and creativity that are vital not only to the Market but to society as a whole. This is a true melting pot, an example of cross-border cooperation at its very best, and we want it to remain that way far into the future.
This blog is part of HuffPost UK’s 12 days of Christmas series. From 20 December we will bring you blogs and vlogs from individuals at the centre of some of 2017′s biggest news stories. They will reflect on the past 12 months and also look forward to new year. To find out more follow our hashtag #HuffPost12Days or visit our series page.